Remember how shocked you were when you first saw Muttiah Muralitharan bowling?
It makes you wonder why we bother with coaching at all. Especially as most coaches are becoming increasingly terrified of producing the proverbial robotic, overcoached player. Murali is the antithesis of that player.
So which way is right, formal coaching or teaching yourself?
For Ian Pont, the balance is about good coaching and bad coaching.
A good coach knows when to intervene because of a flaw and when to let a player be unorthodox because it is working.
One of the keys to working out if you need more coaching or not is to take responsibility to learn for yourself.
Greg Chappell believes players learn best through unstructured coaching: Recreating backyard and beach cricket games with family or bowling at a target on the pitch rather than worrying about your action.
Playing in an unstructured way teaches you how to learn for yourself. For example, it doesn't matter how you hit the ball through extra cover for four, just if you can do it or not. And the best way to learn that is to hit balls through extra cover until you work it out.
Some things remain important
That said there will be times when a technical fault is stopping you from improving. Even Murali has certain aspects to his bowling that he has to have to succeed. In Greg Chappell's book, he outlines these as:
- Unweighting. Being able to remain stable and use the force of the ground to generate force (bowling action, playing shots or fielding).
- Coiling. Using your midsection to store up energy and uncoil into a cricket skill like throwing or playing the pull shot.
- Using Levers. Balancing out each action with the perfect reaction. For example the front arm in the bowling action acting as a lever for the bowling arm.
- Timing. Putting all the above into a perfect sequence.
These apply to batting, bowling and fielding no matter how unorthodox your technique.
If you don't have these four elements you are not going to be a success. The good coach can analyse what is stopping any of these factors and teach you how to develop them.
The good coach also knows that if you have these principles of movement under control you don't need to change anything.
Some people will have these skills without even thinking about it. If you are lucky enough to be one of those cricketers, you need barely any coaching.
For the rest of us mere mortals, good coaching is more important. But it's not about recreating the perfect technique, it's about understanding the movements and adapting your individual technique to them.
Understanding that will help you work out how much coaching you need and importantly, avoid the bad coaching that leads to robots.
Photo credit: RaeA